a patti smith pilgrimage guide
[text by Alison K. Armstrong, w/ minor additions by Fiona Webster;
unless otherwise noted, photos by Alison K. Armstrong]
When I visited New York City for the first time this September,
1996, to see Patti perform at the CMJ Music Conference and Summerstage, I
began looking for sites connected with her, places I'd read about in
various books as well as some suggested to me by babel-list members. My
search, I saw, as a "pilgrimage," but not in the traditional religious
sense of the word. Instead, I see a pilgrimage as a journey to places
associated with someone supremely important in your life. This is not to
imply that Patti is some saintly or superhuman figure, but rather someone
who has made a very significant impact on many people's lives, including
mine, helping us to be aware of potentials, of magic, of sacred connections.
This guide is intended to help people interested in Patti locate
relevant sites. Like the
people have the power page
it is designed as
a sort of work in progress so that people can keep adding to it. Since
the places listed so far are just a few of the many associated with Patti,
and several of the entries are quite brief, additions, including more
photos, are encouraged. Although I have focused on New York City sites,
the guide could eventually be expanded to feature places in Michigan and
One thing I feel strongly about is that, in addition to being
informative and entertaining, the guide should be respectful of Patti's
privacy. Anything that might interfere with her personal life, such as
her current or Michigan address (if known), information about Patti, her
children, and other people close to her that is not readily available in
books, magazine articles, radio and TV interviews, etc., should not be
Any suggestions for improvement are welcome. Also, if people on
the babel-list find the word "pilgrimage" offensive, maybe they could
suggest other titles and we could somehow vote on them. After all, this
is a group project, and it should reflect our shared love for Patti.
(Much of this information was obtained from Patricia Morrisroe's
Mapplethorpe: A Biography, Legs McNeill and Gillian McCain's Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, or Clinton Heylin's From the Velvets to the Voidoids.)
5th Ave., NYC
- Where Patti worked for awhile soon after
she first arrived in NY City. No dates were given by Morrisroe, who
mentions it on p. 52 of the Mapplethorpe biography.
767 5th Ave. at 58th St., NYC
- Very pricey toy store, in
existence since 1852, where Patti worled as a cashier after the Brentano's
job. Robert Mapplethorpe also worked here briefly at the same time as a
5th Ave., NYC
- Where, according to Morrisroe, Patti
worked after the FAO Schwartz job. However, Clinton Heylin in his book
From the Velvets to the Voidoids mentions this as Patti's first job in
NY in 1967 (p. 106). Patti has talked about this job in interviews with
Hit Parader in '76
Elle in May '96.
(Scribner Publishing is now owned by Simon and
Schuster, and there is no current address listed for Scribner's.)
Gotham Book Mart
41 W. 47th St., NYC
- This bookstore, known for helping to
boost the careers of Anaïs Nin, Henry Miller, and others, is where Patti
used to sit amongst the stacks and read French Symbolist poetry during
lunch hours. Bookstore owner Andreas Brown spotted her there, and as he
states in Morrisroe's book, noting her "bizarre and emaciated"
appearance, "felt sorry for her" (p.80). Later, in September 1973, Brown
published Witt, her third book of poetry, and planned an exhibition of her art
at the store. Gotham Book Mart is also credited on the Radio Ethiopia liner notes: "harry crosby's opium pipe courtesy of gotham book mart."
All the books by Patti that
were published by Gotham Book Mart are listed on
the bibliography page.
Bleecker St., NYC
- Where Lenny Kaye worked. Patti visited
Lenny here and asked him if he wanted to accompany her poetry
Matt Umanov's Guitars
- Well-known among guitarists and apparently one of
Patti's favorite guitar stores. She made a reference to it on stage at
the Beacon Theater last year, commenting that she was using a Umanov
guitar pick and that the place has "great people, great guitars, overpriced."
Zeke Schein from Matt Umanov's Guitars played slide guitar at Patti's
September 1996 Central Park Summerstage concert. The store is also
mentioned under "thank you" on the Gone Again liner notes.
302 W. 22nd St., NYC
- Patti and Robert Mapplethorpe were here
briefly after a short stay in a loft on Delancey St. and before moving to
the Chelsea. According to Patricia's Morrisroe's book about
Mapplethorpe (p.62), this hotel, frequented by "derelicts and drug addicts,"
was where Patti wrote "Sister Morphine".
At this time she was taking
care of Robert, who had a serious infection, and inspired by his
condition as well as the sound of numerous ambulances speeding towards the
nearby St. Vincent's Hospital, she captured her impressions in this poem.
A few lines:
once, a long time ago, i checked into the alton house with my friend, in pain.
his nerve was exposed and he laid for several days on the bumpy rusting cot draining
and weeping. from the room next to ours came the moans of a willow bending in
rhythum to the watershed of my friend. one night, in desperation, i called on the voice.
i had never seen him but i had slept on the fire escape breathing through the morning in
term with his wailing, his tolling, his haunting songs of wind.
(This poem is published in Babel.)
222 W. 23rd St., NYC
- An old, eccentrically stylish hotel built
in the late 19th century -- where Patti and Robert lived after moving from
the Allerton. According to Morrisroe (pp.62-63), Patti had carried an
ailing Robert down the Allerton fire escape and accompanied him, by cab,
to the Chelsea, where she then carried him over the threshold and
announced herself to the manager, Stanley Bard. It is in the lobby of
the Chelsea where, as Morrisroe relates, Patti met Bobby Neuwirth, who
subsequently introduced to his famous friends, including Janis Joplin.
The Chelsea is where filmmaker Sandy Daley filmed Robert Gets His
Nipple Pierced, which stars Mapplethorpe and Patti. In addition to
its association with Patti and Robert, the hotel is famous for the many
artists -- such as Joplin, Hendrix, the Jefferson Airplane, and
William Burroughs -- who stayed here. The Chelsea was also featured in
the PBS documentary series American Family, since Lance Loud, the
family's gay son, stayed at the Chelsea when he moved to NY. A more lurid
aspect of the Chelsea's recent history involves Sid Vicious, who killed his
girlfriend Nancy at the hotel in 1978.
There is a mention of the Chelsea Hotel
January '76 interview w/ Rolling Stone.
Also see these lyrics by Leonard Cohen.
[? address], NYC
composite w/ Chelsea Hotel and El Q (by Anthony Roukis)
- Bar near the Chelsea where members of the Patti Smith babel-list met up with
each other and saw Patti after her September, 1996, Summerstage performance.
Good Luck Cheng's
206 W. 23rd St., NYC
- Formerly the Oasis Bar, above which
Patti and Robert shared a loft for several years.
The place is now a Chinese restaurant which has drag shows.
St. Mark's In-The-Bowery Episcopal Church
131 E.10th St (2nd Ave. at 10th), NYC
- Historic church and poetry
performance venue where Patti gave her first concert in February 1971 on
Brecht's birthday. Lenny Kaye accompanied her while she performed
poetry, including "Oath," which would later transmute into the opening for
"Gloria" and also "Fire of Unknown Origin."
For information on Cash Cow -- The Best of Giorno Poetry Systems, 1965-1993, featuring "Seven Ways of Going" and other
Patti selections performed at St. Mark's, see
this home page for current info about the church.
The American Place Theatre
formerly (1971) in St. Clement's Episcopal
Church at 423 W. 46th St.
since moved to 111 W. 46th
- Where Patti Smith and Sam Shepard starred in their first and only
performance of The Cowboy Mouth (original title) on April 29, 1971.
This performance was the American premiere of the play, which was directed
by Robert Glaudini. Glaudini also played the role of "Lobster Man."
There was no advance advertising, and the performance was not reviewed.
The Cowboy Mouth was presented as "an afterpiece," following the
headline production, which was Shepard's Back Bog Beast Bait. Back Bog
Beast Bait, also in its premiere performance, was directed by Tony
Barsha. (In this performance Shepard's wife, O-Lan Johnson-Shepard,
played the role of "Gris-Gris.")
In The Cowboy Mouth, written by Smith and Shepard, Patti (under
the stage name of "Johnny Guitar") plays Cavale -- "a chick who looks like a
crow, dressed in raggedy black" -- who kidnaps Slim (Shepard, under the
stage name of "Slim Shadow") and tries to transform him into a rock star
When Patti and Sam wrote and performed this play, they were lovers
and lived together at the Chelsea Hotel. In Don Shewey's book about
Shepard, Sam is quoted as saying, "I'd never written a play with somebody
before, and we literally shoved the typewriter back and forth across the
table. We wrote the whole thing like that, in two nights."
The text of Cowboy Mouth first appears in print in Sam Shepard's
Mad Dog Blues and Other Plays (copyright 1972). In later editions of
the play Patti Smith alone holds the copyright. The play contains the
text to two songs:"Have No Fear" and "Loose Ends," which are credited as
by Patti Smith and Sam Shepard.
photo of Patti in Cowboy Mouth.
Max's Kansas City
Park Avenue South and 17th St., NYC
- Where Patti performed
in 1973 as an opening act for Phil Ochs and subsequently played
regularly. As Morrisroe points out, before becoming well-known, Patti
and Robert used to hang around here at night, hoping to get noticed by
the Warhol crowd and other hip people who frequented the back room at
Max's. Later, Patti was the headliner act for Television when they performed
here Aug. 28-Sept.2, 1974. Max's Kansas City is the subject of a song by
the same name performed by transsexual Jayne (formerly Wayne) County on the
Max's Kansas City 1976 record (ROIR USA). This song has a reference
to Patti as well as the other musicians who played here. A live Velvet
Underground album was recorded there also.
interview with Wayne
County (mentions Patti at Max's).
Mercer Arts Centre
[? address], NYC
- Where in early 1973 Patti, then managed by Jane Friedman,
began reading her poetry as an opening act for the New York Dolls,
sometimes accompanying herself with a toy piano, and fought back at
hecklers. She performed without a mike in "The Kitchen" of the Centre.
In August 1973, the Centre collapsed, and the NYC proto-punk scene didn't
really have a locale until they moved to CBGB's.
history of The Kitchen.
(aka CBGBOMFUG, which is short for Country, Blue Grass, Blues, and
Other Music For Uplifting Gourmandizers)
313 Gallery, NYC
- Hilly Crystal opened CBGB's on the lower east side in 1973. After Tom Verlain convinced Crystal to let Television play there, CBGB's hosted
performances by Patti, Television, Blondie, Ramones, etc. and considered
the birthplace of "punk" in the '70s. Patti and Lenny first went to
CBGB's to hear a band in 1974 and beginning in February 1975 she started
performing here regularly. In March 1975 Patti had a two month residency
here, each weekend performing with Television. Due to the bands'
performances, CBGB's began packing in crowds and developed a reputation
as a cutting edge venue for innovative rock. Describing the unique
CBGB's atmosphere, Clinton Heylin in From the Velvets to the Voidoids writes,
"If New York had piles, it was a fair bet that this was their postal
address" (p. 182). From a different perspective, Patti, in Morrisroe's
book, says that the place reminded her of a "revival meeting" because it was so
packed and "the feeling so intense" (p. 155).
See CBGB OMFUG Home Page for lots of loving details -- be sure to check out "The Shrine," or go directly to
their Patti Smith feature
Review of 1975 CBGB's appearance by Patti
157 Bleecker St. at Thompson, NYC
- Where Patti as opening act in May 1973 performed "Rape," among other pieces,
and was later reviewed by the Village Voice.
- A gay discotheque where Patti performed at a Rimbaud reading in 1973, wearing a black evening gown and boa. She was accompanied by Lenny on guitar, and a piano, and sang torch songs.
Robert Miller Gallery
41 E. 57th St., NYC
- Where Patti and Robert had a joint
exhibition -- "Film and Stills" -- of art by Patti and work by
Robert, including his film Still Moving, which features Patti.
the gallery website for current details.
Electric Lady Studios
52 W. 8th St., off 6th Ave., NYC
- Originally called Electric Ladyland, this recording studio was opened by
Jimi Hendrix, and is where Patti recorded Horses and Gone Again.
Patti has been interviewed there a few times a recently.
Comments about the atmosphere at Electric Lady(land) in these interviews:
The Bottom Line
15 W. 4th St., NYC
- Where Patti gave seven famous sold-out shows in late December 1976. Here's
what the New York Times said at that time, in anticipation of the event:
Recently returned from SRO gigs at the Roxy in Los Angeles and
the Boarding House in San Francisco, Patti plays New York's
ultimate rock emporium, The Bottom Line, on December 26-28, days
before her 29th birthday. It's all rolling in fast now, and her
cult followers from the old days wonder, Will Patti be a star?
while her new fans wonder, Just who is this tough little chick?
Patti's performances at the Bottom Line are also mentioned on these babelogue pages:
history around the time of horses
diatribe against patti in after dark
The Other End (aka The Bitter End?)
[? address], NYC
- Where Patti played in May '75, an event remarkable for the fact that her idol Bob Dylan paid a symbolic and widely photographed visit to hear her. This is what she
told Thurston Moore about that occasion (from Bomb, January '96):
Somebody told us he was there. My heart was pounding. I got
instantly rebellious. I made a couple of references, a couple of oblique
things to show I knew he was there. And then he came backstage which was
really quite gentlemanly of him. He came over to me and I kept moving
around. We were like two pitbulls circling. I was a snotnose. I had a
very high concentration of adrenaline. He said to me, "Any poets around
here?" And I said, "I don't like poetry anymore. Poetry sucks!" I really
acted like a jerk. I thought, that guy will never talk to me again. And
the day after there was this picture on the cover of the Village Voice.
The photographer had Dylan put his arms around me. It was a really cool
picture. It was a dream come true, but it reminded me of how I had acted
like a jerk. And then a few days later I was walking down 4th Street by
the Bottom Line and I saw him coming. He put his hand in his jacket -- he
was still wearing the same clothes he had on in the picture, which I liked
-- and he takes out the Village Voice picture and says, "Who are these two
people? You know who these people are?" Then he smiled at me and I knew
it was alright.
126 West 13th Street, NYC
- Now closed; where Patti gave a fashion show in 1974.
The Beacon Theatre
[? address], NYC
- Where Patti opened for Bob Dylan in December '95.
reviews and details at
Mitch Gart's website.
In the future, this project may be expanded to
include sites from places other than NYC, such as
The Old Mariner's Church in Detroit, and the place at
Coney Island where Patti first met Fred.
other links, info, photos, references, stories, etc., are welcome! please send corrections/additions to
Copyright © Alison K. Armstrong 1996
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